This is Part 2 of a series I’m writing on capital campaign readiness. In Part 1, I started at the beginning, by asking: What is a capital campaign, and when do you need one? Today, I’ll be discussing the infrastructure that will be needed for your campaign. As you will see, we’re diving right into the nitty-gritty, with a minimum of preamble. You’re welcome!
Does Your Organization Have the Infrastructure for a Capital Campaign?
Once your board has reached consensus on the campaign and appointed a steering committee, the next step is to do an internal assessment of your readiness for a campaign. Often this is done through a formal development audit process. If time or circumstances do not permit a full-blown audit, the consultant you choose should perform an internal assessment as part of the planning study. In either case the consultant will be looking at various aspects of your organization’s infrastructure.
Infrastructure includes the staffing of your organization as well as your office systems and procedures including software, gift acceptance policies and office procedures. Running a capital campaign will be challenging if you do not have your internal house in order.
Staffing for a Capital Campaign
Staffing for a campaign is critical. No matter what the size of the organization and the development staff, consideration must be given to the amount of time the campaign will take from the staff’s time. This is an especially sensitive area if you do not have a formal development office at all. In many smaller organizations, the executive director wears the development hat along with all the other duties executive directors have on their plates. The executive director of your organization, even if you have a development office, will most likely spend 40-50 percent of his or her time on the campaign once it gets up and running. If your executive director is not prepared to accept this role, your campaign will suffer from this lack of commitment. Leadership level donors will want to talk with the CEO before making a major commitment. Donor cultivation is another key role of the CEO, so there will be countless meetings, lunches, cocktail parties, early morning breakfasts at which your CEO will play a leading role.
The development office will coordinate all these cultivation events, working closely with the campaign consultant. In addition the development office will be responsible for prospect research, organizing volunteers, assuring proper stewardship, etc. For many small organizations, the chief development function may revolve around special events, which are very time consuming for staff. If your organization is focused on special events that may be bringing in modest revenues, instead of channeling the required amount of time and energy into your capital campaign, the campaign will suffer.
In cases where there is no development office, often a campaign director will be hired or a staff person may be pulled from current duties to manage the campaign. A word of caution when this is the case—there must be someone who will be assigned full time to campaign coordination; this is not a task that can be done in a staff member’s “spare time.” Volunteers and donors need to know there is a person responsible for managing all the aspects of the campaign and someone they can go to with questions. Stewardship is a crucial part of all fundraising and is particular important in a capital campaign.
Capital Campaign Fundraising Software
One of the things that will make campaign management and stewardship flow more efficiently is a good campaign software package. You will need to access past giving history of donors because you will use this donor history, combined with additional research, to qualify prospective donors and assign them to an appropriate solicitor. Donor history is an invaluable resource in the preparation for a capital campaign since, in most cases, the major gifts in a campaign will come from those who are already supporting the organization.
If you’re preparing for a campaign, you will need to have specific fundraising software in place that allows for campaign coding structure, recording of multiyear pledges and generation of campaign reports. The coding of the software system is essential to be able to sort prospects by the division in which they will be contacted (i.e. leadership gifts, major gifts, etc.) and assign a solicitor to every prospect, so the campaign director can sort prospect names by solicitor in order to track the success of volunteer solicitors.
Another important function of your chosen software system will be to generate the campaign reports that will be needed for your board, the campaign cabinet and committees, and lending institutions. For example, the board will want to track pledges received and cash received against those pledges; the campaign cabinet and various committees will need to see overall campaign progress reports and reports within their division by solicitor. If interim financing is going to be sought to finance the construction costs while pledges are being paid, the lending institution will want to see a cash flow projection showing how many pledges are outstanding and when it is anticipated those pledges will be paid.
Sometimes organizations feel they can do all this by customizing a program like Access of Excel; however, it is often “penny wise and pound foolish” to resist purchasing a software designed especially for fundraising which will provide all the tools necessary to manage a campaign with little or no customization. And purchasing fundraising software provides the added benefits of having support from the software company, manuals explaining the various functions of the software, and a group of users who are operating the same system and can provide an additional means of support for staff. One thing that is important is that a designated data base manager is in place who can devote the time to managing the campaign aspects of the development program, and that this person received the training and support they need to assure accurate data entry and reporting.
Internal Capital Campaign Policies and Procedures
In addition to staffing and software, internal policies and procedures are another essential ingredient that must be assessed. You should have gift acceptance policies in place, which will provide staff and volunteers with guidelines on what type of gifts will be accepted during the campaign, from whom gifts will be accepted, and how these gifts will be recognized and, in some cases, how they will be disposed of.
Internal procedures should also be in place for the accepting, recording and acknowledgment of pledges gifts received. For instance, who opens mail, photocopies checks, makes the bank deposit, and signs the acknowledgement letters. These procedures should be in place for all your fundraising but will be especially important in the campaign since this may be the first time you have accepted multiyear pledges in addition to one-time gifts.